IBM Expands Packaged Services For Medium Businesses

IBM Global Business Services says it will introduce new Express Advantage packaged solutions targeted at manufacturing, automotive, fashion and apparel, chemicals and the food and beverage industries. The new Express Advantage offerings expand upon GBS's strategy launched about two years ago, which designs packaged IBM service offerings specifically for the midmarket that can be sold and delivered by business partners.

But some business partners, notably those that have heavily invested in their own services organizations, say the IBM strategy has yet to gain traction.

"We don't lead with the IBM service if we sell the same service," said Joe Mertens, executive vice president of Sirius Computer Solutions, San Antonio, Tex. and one of IBM's largest business partners.

Mertens said the package services, which are sold by business partners and either delivered by IBM or co-delivered with the partner are probably best suited for smaller solutions providers that don't have a large services organization.

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Another large regional business partner, who asked not to be identified, added, "The packaged services haven't shown up on my radar," he said. "We just haven't sold Express solutions before."

But Dean Ferro, vice president of solution sales at Dynax Solutions, an IBM business partner in Syosset, N.Y., says, "The model works for us. IBM GBS is far deeper into SAP than we are."

He acknowledges, "It's taken two years [for GBS packaged services strategy] to get going." But Ferro says that while Dynax is well versed in the grocery and food services retail industry but, because IBM offers very specific services targeted toward his company's vertical market, "We don't have to know everything."

Among the Express Advantage packages GBS will announce Tuesday are separate ones built around SAP that focus on the chemical and automotive supply industry. Additionally, IBM will introduce solutions for the apparel and food and beverage industry built around Lawson M3 as well as a separate food and beverage solution based on JD Edwards EnterpriseOne. Additionally, IBM will roll out an industrial manufacturing solution based on Oracle.

Kathleen Pionek, SMB global solution leader for IBM GBS, said that business partners who simply act as sales agents for the services which are then delivered by IBM will receive a 5 percent commission up to a maximum of $50,000.

She said that business partners that take a more proactive role and work with IBM to close and implement the sale would receive a 10 percent commission. She said that partners could also sell hardware, software and other services in addition to specific vertical solution.

Pionek said IBM was looking for quality rather than quantity when it comes to recruiting business partners to sell the Express Advantage solutions. "We will be very selective," she said, noting that business partners that intend to sell Express Advantage must go through a certification and training process.